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Counter-Archival Impressions

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posted on 29.06.2020, 22:05 by Jamison EdgarJamison Edgar
The following thesis surveys artistic utilizations of the archive and underscores its role as a tool for knowledge disruption. Fluctuating between theoretical meanderings, autobiographical reflections, and the analysis of artwork, I propose one avenue in which to reinvigorate conversations around the archive began by Derrida in Archive Fever and by Hal Foster in “Archival Impulse.” Approaching the archive as both a theoretical container and as a charged artist medium, I argue for a new archival impulse — one that embraces opaqueness and mess over clarity and order. Comprised of eight individual sections, and a parallel dialogue presented in the form of extended footnotes, the thesis borrows formal and stylistic strategies from arenas of creative non-fiction, diaristic writing, and art historical analysis. Archive scholars — Derrida, Foster, Michel Foucault, Annet Dekker — are cross-examined with thinkers in fields of queer theory, ecology, art history, philosophy, media studies, performance studies, and cultural studies — José Muñoz, Lee Edelman, Sara Ahmed, Jane Bennett, Hito Steyerl, Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, Nicholas de Villiers. Contextualizing artwork made during my time in graduate school through contemporary artists working in the fields of painting, performance and installation, I outline how this research has led me to define a particularly artistic subcategory of archival discourse capable of capturing the pulse of an American undercurrent. Artists building with and through the counter-archive look backward to engage with the potentiality of what has not yet come to pass. Their unorthodox strategies for collecting and sharing history employ the archive not as merely a bank of historical knowledge, but in fact, as a formally antagonistic counter to the ways in which history and other forms of knowledge production are weaponized as systems of oppression.




Degree Type

Master's Thesis



Degree Name

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


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